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What’s Cooking with WHRY: Simple Swaps for BBQ Season

June 20, 2017
by Carissa R Violante

The warmer weather and longer days mark the start of barbecue season, a time for family, friends, and food! With tempting treats in abundance, it is easy to overindulge and lose track of how many calories you’ve eaten. No, one weekend of culinary splendor will not lead to long-term health concerns. But establishing a regular pattern of overeating or eating unhealthy foods may lead to obesity, coronary artery disease, and diabetes.

So what can you do to have healthier options at your next backyard barbecue? The solution might be easier than you think. Making simple swaps for more nutrient-dense food means more vitamins, minerals, fiber, or protein per serving and less fat, sodium, and sugar. Check out some of our ideas below.

Use Greek yogurt in place of sour cream

Substituting plain non-fat Greek yogurt is an easy swap that can drastically improve the nutrition of a recipe. Comparing equal half-cup portions, sour cream has a hefty 20 grams of fat and a mere 2 grams of protein, while Greek yogurt is virtually fat free, with a whopping 10 grams of protein — about 25% of the daily recommend value for the average woman. In most cases, Greek yogurt can be swapped in a 1-to-1 ratio to sour cream, so there’s no need to convert measurements. Try it out with your favorite dip recipe, as an alternative to traditional potato salad ingredients, or on top of tacos.

Try adding greens to pasta salad, or substituting beans

Pasta salad is a barbecue staple in any of its forms — like elbows, bowties, and orzo — but it brings little value to the picnic table. Pasta is traditionally made of refined flour, a processed grain that has lost most of its nutritionally beneficial fiber and vitamins. Swapping white pasta with a whole grain version is definitely a healthy upgrade and is likely to reduce the amount of fat while increasing the amount of fiber per serving. Another way to improve the nutrition of this barbecue staple is to reduce the amount of pasta and add leafy greens. For example, arugula is a great compliment to fresh tomatoes and mozzarella, while baby spinach pairs well with feta, olives, and cucumbers.

But is there an even healthier option? Well, there could be — some recipes can be adapted into a bean salad by removing the pasta entirely. Try chickpeas in place of pasta with a mix of tomatoes, olives, and cucumbers. Or, add some Tex-Mex flair to your next gathering with black beans, corn, and avocado. Plus, beans can be a source of many nutrients that are low or nonexistent in pasta. For example, black beans are an excellent source of protein, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, and vitamin B-6. But be warned: Canned beans can be high in sodium, so use dried beans that you have rehydrated at home whenever possible.

Bye-bye buns

What’s a hamburger without a bun? It’s … still a hamburger! Just like pasta, hamburger buns are usually made from refined flour. While a whole grain or multigrain bun is a healthier choice, the adventurous eater might be tempted to try a more unique bun alternative with even more nutritional value. Sweet potatoes that have been peeled, sliced lengthwise, and roasted can form a sturdy burger base that offers a significant amount of vitamins A and C and a fun spin on the idea of a burger and fries. Also, grilled zucchini can cook right alongside mini burgers before being assembled into bite-size sliders with a boost of vitamin C. Or try crumbling a cooked burger patty on top of a serving of salad and eliminating the need for a bun substitute.


The information provided here may help you make more informed choices. However, it is not a substitute for an individualized nutrition plan, medical opinion, or diagnosis. You should always consult with your personal physician to make decisions about your diet and nutrition.

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Submitted by Carissa R Violante on June 20, 2017